There is something that has weighed on me for years. Until recently I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I had the opportunity to spend a week with my friend during her husband’s deployment.
They haven’t lived in their current city very long and they aren’t near family. My friend works full time, volunteers, leads a ministry, and is raising two young daughters. Deployment adds stress to her marriage as she and her husband strive to both parent their daughters, care for each other well, and focus on their daily tasks.
This makes for long, stressful weeks. A Military Times article reported only 19% of military spouses report having excellent or very good support during a spouses deployment. In 2017 the same survey results reported 23% of spouses had the same response. While neither is great, the drop is important to note.
You may wonder why I’m sharing this here, but as I’ve explored the overlap within military and coaching lives for a while now and I believe there is something coaches’ wives should consider.
Coaches’ Wives: We Can Step into the Gap
I’m not going to put words in the mouths of military wives (they will be speaking for themselves in the coming weeks) but I do want to try to highlight why I believe coaches’ wives are uniquely qualified to step in and encourage and support military wives.
First, those who serve in the military are sacrificing everything for our safety. Regardless of the benefits they may receive it’s never enough. They are sacrificing their lives, their health, their time with family, and often their mental health.
Coaching families may not have the same stresses as military families dealing with deployment, but the similarities are there and we speak the same language.
Consider these examples:
Moving: I wrote a post The Fear that Lingers with Coaches’ Kids and talked about how even when our boys knew we were moving locally they still instinctively had a moment of fear. Several military wives and women who grew up in the military commented that most of what I wrote translates exactly for their lives as well.
Preparing: A military wife posted: Is nesting before deployment a real thing? If not I may need to get a pregnancy test! I knew exactly what she was referring to because I “nest” at the beginning of every football season. We joked a little about it, but I also made sure to let her know we’re praying for her family. Their sacrifice is different, but I understand the stress she is facing.
The unknown: As coaching families, we often hear rumors that we’ll be facing job searches soon. How much longer will we live in our home? Where will we go next? Military families deal with the same rumors.
Building Community far from Family: Coaching families go where the job is and military families go where the orders move them. Both require that we build support systems in our local communities that often don’t include family.
Why Should I Reach Out?
The truth is that we have an opportunity to not only build a relationship with a family in our community who needs support but to build a bridge where the media has worked to create a divide.
I believe that there are some sections of the media that are strategically trying to create a division between athletics and patriotism. The rhetoric is exhausting and frankly, it’s pretty mind-blowing if you pause to consider what happens. It’s been three years since Colin Kaepernick took a knee during an NFL game and his choice is still used as a talking point as an example of division in the US anytime there is a slow news cycle.
Even when Green Beret Nate Boyer publically states that he encouraged Kaepernick to kneel, news pundits ignore those reports and instead reinterpret an action to fit their narrative. It’s exhausting and it’s hate-filled and I’m more than over it at this point.
The best way to prove those know-it-all opinionists wrong is to actively and intentionally show one family at a time that it doesn’t matter what some removed-from-reality pundit says, actions speak louder than words and coaching families appreciate and respect military families.
Veterans who Coach
What those pundits are naive to is the overlap that exists with veterans and coaches. Over the next several weeks I’ll feature coaches’ wives who are married to coaches who once served in the military. I’ll also feature coaches’ wives who grew up with active-duty parents. You will hear from them about their experiences as military wives and how they believe coaching families can best serve military families in their local communities.
The Most Important Reason to Reach Out to a Military Wife
I can list many additional reasons why I believe you should consider reaching out to a military wife in your community and making her a part of your friend group. Instead, I’ll say that the most important reason to reach out is because just like you, my coach’s wife friend, military wives are used to doing things without asking for help.
They are also used to not being able to share openly about stressful situations, and they understand that there are days when cereal is a perfectly acceptable dinner. You have more in common with the military wife in your community than you realize and my guess is that you will enjoy spending time together as well as helping each other out in those stressful seasons.
So, here’s my encouragement to you. Stay attentive to who the military families in your community are and reach out to them. Do more thank them for their service. If your kids are similar ages invite them over or meet up somewhere to get to know each other better. You’re resourceful, you know what to do, and if you need more ideas check back here because I’ll post several. Remember, your community needs your support just as you need the support of your community, even if you won’t ask for it when you need it the most.